Weight Loss: Understand Your Body

When I wrote about the weight loss case study I was doing for my Weight Loss class, I received so many e-mails from readers volunteering to be my experimental client. This made me realize how important weight loss is to so many people. The class is very interesting because we talk not only about the standard approach to weight loss (burn more calories than you consume each day), but also the holistic approach. The holistic approach takes into account each person’s biochemical individuality, recognizing that a diet that works for one person may not work for another.

I want to provide you guys with some information on weight loss, so those that are interested can start to understand the entire picture better. I believe that in nutrition, education is key. When someone understands what certain foods are doing to their body, they are better equipped to make decisions about their health and lifestyle.

  • The body must have glucose to fuel red blood cells and the central nervous system. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, which is necessary for life; the central nervous system is basically our brain. Glucose comes mainly from carbohydrates. So, those who eat a no-carb or very low-carb diet may feel great for a few weeks as their body starts to lose weight, but once all their stored glucose is used up, they may start to experience low energy, cloudy thinking, fatigue, and other things.

  • We OBTAIN energy from macronutrients: fats, proteins, carbs. We are able to actually USE the energy because of the micronutrients: vitamins and minerals. This is why a varied diet is so important!

  • Overweight people tend to store fat more efficiently. They contain a higher amount of a certain enzyme that promotes fats storage in the body. Men tend to have this enzyme concentrated around their midsection, and women have more of it around their chest, hips and thighs. After weight loss, this enzyme’s activity actually increases, which is partly why it’s so difficult for people who lose weight to keep it off.

  • Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Therefore, muscle increases our resting metabolism, helping us to stay leaner. This is why strength-training exercises such as pilates, yoga and weight lifting are so important. Over the past few years, I have actually decreased my aerobic exercise (mainly running) and increased my strength training, and I have noticed huge differences in how I look and feel. But, that doesn’t mean aerobic exercise is not important too – it’s very helpful for weight loss. Both can work together to create a healthy body.

  • It takes the stomach 20 minutes to tell the brain that it is full. For this reason, some people say that putting your fork or spoon down between each bite, and chewing thoroughly and slowly, is an important key for weight loss.

  • Being underweight is just as dangerous as being overweight, as far as what it does to your body.

  • 10% of the calories we consume at a meal are used for digestion of that meal. So, if we eat a 500-calorie lunch, 50 of those calories are burned up as our body works to digest that lunch.

I hope some of you find these things interesting and/or helpful. The weight loss picture is so much bigger than calories in vs. calories out. Once people start to understand all the different components of weight loss, I believe they will have an easier time adjusting their eating habits and will be able to feel good about the healthy changes they are making for their body.



Chromium has come up a few times in my classes recently, so I thought I’d do a quick overview of what it is, why it is important, and which foods contain high levels of chromium.

What is chromium?

Chromium is an essential trace mineral. Our bodies absorb about 10-25% of chromium from a particular food.

Why is chromium so important?

One of the main functions of chromium is to help control blood sugar. Chromium is used to produce glucose tolerance factor, which is a compound that helps insulin function properly. When insulin is functioning properly, we are less likely to experience dramatic highs and lows in our blood sugar. I talked about blood sugar last week here – if you are someone who has ever had trouble stabilizing your blood sugar, you know what I’m talking about when I say “highs and lows”. Not everyone experiences these dramatic shifts, but many do (I know I do!).

One of the results of balancing blood sugar through chromium’s ability to produce glucose tolerance factor could be a clearing up of someone’s acne. Often times acne is directly related to blood glucose levels, and when they become balanced, the skin will also clear up.

Another function of chromium is fat and cholesterol metabolism. One study has found that chromium works with niacin (vitamin B3). You may remember when I talked about niacin back in March. It is a key nutrient used for metabolism of all of our food.

Chromium intake has also been linked to an increase in lean body mass.

Since our country eats so much processed foods, it is very realistic to think that one may have a chromium deficiency if they have certain symptoms. Symptoms can include high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Which foods contain chromium?

The most chromium-packed food I could find is (big surprise) calf’s liver. I blogged a great liver recipe here, but remember that it is extremely important to get your liver from a grass-fed calf to ensure its liver is healthy.

Other great food sources of chromium include potatoes (and I don’t mean french fries, unless of course you make them yourself at home); oysters; chicken; bran; whole grain bread; raw onions; green peppers; romaine lettuce; carrots; apples; bananas; cooked spinach; and cooked cabbage.

Some people also take a chromium supplement if they are experience signs of a deficiency. Before supplementing with chromium, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about any potential interactions chromium could have with other drugs.


The Many Names for MSG

Yesterday, I talked about MSG: what it is, what types of foods it’s found in, and what it does inside the body. It’s something we want to keep out of our diet as much as possible, but in order to do that we need to know what to look for on food labels.

Some labels will shamelessly say “monosodium glutamate”. Fine – those ones are easy to pick out. You’ll find this on things like Doritos, Cheetos, and many soy sauces. However, MSG can be very slightly chemically altered, which then allows food manufacturers to call it something else on the label. And these forms of MSG still contain glutamic acid and carry the same health risks, so we need to look out for them.

Remember, MSG affects us all in different ways – some may react immediately to it and for others, it may take years of MSG ingestion before they start noticing symptoms. People especially sensitive to MSG include children with autism; people with allergies; those with an unhealthy liver; someone with a CoQ10 deficiency; people who suffer from epilepsy, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, or Parkinson’s disease; someone with a magnesium deficiency or a B-vitamin deficiency; and people with Type I diabetes.

Alternative names for MSG:

Autolyzed plant protein

Calcium caseinate



Glutamic acid

Hydrolyzed plant protein

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein

Monopotassium glutamate

Sodium caseinate

Textured protein

Yeast extract

Vegetable protein extract

Some alternative names substances that contain varying amounts of MSG are listed below. These may be okay in small amounts depending on how sensitive one is, but often a food item contains three or more of these ingredients, which is something to watch for.

Barley malt


Brown rice syrup

Citric acid

Malt extract or flavoring

Modified food starch

Natural flavors or flavorings (this one is very common)

Natural meat flavorings (beef, pork, etc.)

Natural seasonings

Rice syrup

Soy extract or sauce

Soy protein isolate


Some of these ingredients are fairly common, which is disappointing. Yet another reason to focus on fresh, whole foods! Just read labels carefully, though, and if you or one of your kids has some type of strange reaction after eating something, be aware that it could be from the MSG. To see a more complete list of foods containing MSG, go here.

What about soy sauce?

One PWN reader e-mailed me yesterday to ask if Kikkoman Soy Sauce contains MSG. The answer is yes, unfortunately. Soy sauce is one of the biggest offenders! We use Ohsawa organic Nama Shoyu at our house. It’s an unpasteurized soy sauce, and it’s only ingredients are organically grown whole soybeans, mountain spring water, organically grown whole wheat, and sea salt. Pretty safe, and it tastes just as good as regular soy sauce to me! You can find this product at most natural food stores. We often bring sushi or Japanese food home and eat it with this soy sauce, to avoid having to use the restaurant types that typically are high in MSG.



This past weekend, a friend asked me if I would do a blog about MSG. The request came in the form of a text message:

“Any chance you could do a blog on msg? I didn’t know Doritos and ranch dressing have msg!”

Oh yes, they do. And yes, I will do a blog on it.

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a food additive used in things such as salad dressings, condiments, soups, frozen meals, salty snacks, bouillon cubes, meats, cafeteria food, and many restaurant foods (including fast food). Basically, it is a flavor enhancer. Until the 1960s, MSG was prepared using wheat gluten. Now, however, it is produced by fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses (Wikipedia.org).

And just for the record, the FDA says that MSG is safe for people when “eaten at customary levels.” Do you guys know anyone who eats more than “customary levels” of processed foods? Most of America does! Processed foods are found at every fast food chain, grocery store and gas station, and at many restaurants. They have become a staple in our diet.

Some infant foods and formulas even contain a form of MSG, which is just awful. MSG is toxic to the nervous system and a since a baby’s brain is not fully developed yet, these toxins have easy access. Some formulas sold in the US that contain aspartic acid or MSG include Nestlé Carnation Good Start and Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Formula (westonaprice.org).

MSG is an excitotoxin. Excitotoxins overstimulate brain cells, eventually killing them. MSG can also damage the appetite regulation part of the brain, which leads to overeating and eventually weight gain and obesity. This is why when we have a bag of chips in front of us, we sometimes feel like we could eat the entire bag! Another negative side effect of MSG is inflammation inside the body. Inflammation is a precursor to many diseases, including diabetes, cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

Many people are extremely sensitive to this food additive without even knowing it. Some people who eat MSG just feel an overall sense of bloating, stomach pain, headaches, or discomfort. It can cause allergies or asthma to flare up, and make people feel extremely uncomfortable after eating. Have you ever eaten a big meal at a Chinese restaurant and felt sort of sick when leaving? Although you may have chalked it up to eating too much, it could be a result of the MSG you just loaded into your system.

So, what’s the best way to avoid MSG? As usual, avoid processed foods! Tomorrow I will provide a list of alternative names for MSG. I recommend you take this list and go through your kitchen and just get an idea of what foods you consume contain MSG. My goal is for everyone to become more aware of MSG, not to totally eliminate it from their diet. By increasing your awareness, you can determine whether or not you experience any type of reaction when eating foods containing MSG. And if you do, you may want to consider reducing or eliminating it slowly. And of course I recommend extra caution when feeding your kids foods that contain MSG. Remember, their little brains and bodies are still developing, and it’s extremely important to put the best foods possible inside of them.

Check back tomorrow for a list of alternative names for MSG!



While meandering through Whole Foods last week, I saw they had a few starfruit in the produce section. And since I try to make an effort to buy a variety of things whenever I grocery shop, I grabbed one. I hadn’t eaten one since I was a kid!

Starfruit was originally grown on trees that are native to parts of Asia, and is now grown in many different places, including Hawaii and Florida. When choosing a starfruit, look for one that is yellow with some lighter green on it. The five edges should be a little brown, and the fruit should be fairly firm with no soft spots. If there are brown spots, the fruit may be overripe.

To eat, just wash it well (especially since for most of us it probably won’t be locally grown), chop off the stem end so you have a flat surface. Then, carefully slice off each of the five edges of the fruit, which will be a little bit browned (I did this step last, because I began slicing faster than Ed could google "how to cut a starfruit"). After that, you can just slice the fruit into pieces and eat! The skin of the starfruit is meant to be eaten.

Nutrients in starfruit include vitamin C, fiber and lots of antioxidants. It is lower in sugar than some other fruits, so could be beneficial for someone watching their sugar intake. An entire starfruit contains only 30 calories.

Really, they aren’t any type of superfood but they taste really fresh and I think they’d be a pretty garnish for a salad or a dessert. We happened to have ours for breakfast. Kids will love starfruit purely because of its fun shape!